Tuesday, June 23, 2015

I've Got the Deadline Blues

There are only three things you need to do to succeed as a freelance writer:

1. Produce good-enough writing. This includes writing clearly and grammatically; having subject-matter expertise and/or good research skills; and being flexible enough to adapt to different clients' requirements and styles.  

2.  Demonstrate good-enough customer service skills.  When writing for content sites where you never meet clients in person and all contact is via online messages or (rarely) phone calls, this can be as simple as refraining from acting like a jerk.  

3.  Meet deadlines.

The third one is my Achilles' heel.  Missing deadlines is my fatal flaw as a freelance writer. My writing skills, I believe, are good. My customer-service skills are fine. But being late on assignments is killing my reputation and, therefore, my opportunities.

The culprit -- the evil, leering villain behind the clock that is ticking away -- is procrastination.

I finally hit what felt like rock bottom last week. 

I had a large project, one that paid a higher than usual rate. Once again I waited until the last minute. I ended up rushing, pulling an (almost) all-nighter (which I really shouldn't be doing at my age), and still having to get deadline extensions -- only to find, once again, that the work itself, once I finally settled down into it, was not as bad as I had feared. 

This time, I decided I had to do something.

So I started web surfing, which is ironic because web surfing is one of the all-time best ways to procrastinate. But now I was hoping to use this same bad habit to find a solution to my procrastination problem.

What I came up with, at the end of the surfing chain, was a book that from its description and reviews sounded like it might actually help -- The Now Habit by Neil Fiore.  I ordered it from Amazon, and I've started reading it and (whew!), I think it IS helping.

I'm going to write more in later posts about what I'm learning from reading this book, but for now I'll leave you with one thought that I took from The Now Habit that has reframed the way I think about procrastination:

Procrastination is a symptom, not the disease. Procrastination kicks in automatically when you feel anxiety about starting or completing a task. It's something the automatic systems of the body (or the subconscious) comes up with, and from the body's point of view, procrastination makes sense. Your body wants you to be in a balanced state, and in that context, procrastination is a helpful response that your body uses to try to protect you from the debilitating effects of anxiety.

So trying to attack procrastination directly by using will power won't work because you would only be dealing with the symptom.  The cause is the underlying anxiety.  If you can relieve the anxiety, then you won't have any reason to procrastinate, and the problem will solve itself.

But how do you deal with the anxiety?  That's the $64,000 question. Stay tuned as I try to find the answer to that question ....

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link to Amazon.

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